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Speed Dial: Starwood's Frits van Paasschen

The chief executive of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide says Sheraton, its once-troubled business travel brand, is now fueling growth

(Corrects spelling of Frits van Paasschen.)

How's business travel?

We (HOT) saw a more precipitous decline during the recession than even after 9/11. We saw leisure travel come back in August 2009, and in the fall of 2009 we started to see business trips come back. Executives know they have to get out to get business. They can't just sit behind their desks.

How has business travel changed?

Consultants and lawyers don't want to meet in their rooms, but they want to have a place that's more discreet than the lobby. So we're enhancing our club floors. And I'm a fitness nut, so we're making sure our gyms are state of the art. We're thinking of all the different ways we can keep people in the hotel if not in their room.

What's behind Sheraton's success?

To resurrect the brand, we did a [$4 billion overhaul of] the 200 hotels in the U.S. We had learned from our W chain that people don't like to sit in their rooms, they like to hang out. The W is edgy, Sheraton is mainstream. So we created a social area for the mainstream, mostly business travelers, called the Link. It's a place where people can multitask.

Where are the biggest opportunities outside the U.S.?

Three years ago, half of the hotels we projected opening were in North America. Now 80 percent of our new hotels [are] going to open outside the U.S., almost entirely in emerging markets. We have 70 hotels in China and another 80 under construction.

Berfield is an associate editor at Bloomberg Businessweek.

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